While the Proteas and Australia are ahead of Sri Lanka in the ICC World ratings, neither team will be pushovers. Sri Lanka proved that they can take it to the end, collapsing in the ICC World Twenty20 against the West Indies in the final. South Africa boast the likes of Jacques Kallis, AB De Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.
With the first test set to begin on November 9th, here’s a look at what the Aussie crowds can expect from what looks to be a top-notch summer:
South Africa: Second in the one-day rankings and first in the test rankings as of early September, the Proteas have been one of the dominant nations of cricket during the last five years. Dale Steyn is feared around the world for his aggressive fast bowling, and on a bouncy Gabba wicket, could wreak havoc on the Australian batting order, especially if the inconsistency that has plagued the likes of Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke in the longer forms continues.
Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers are currently South Africa’s top batsman. While Amla had an underperforming Twenty20 World Cup Campaign, he is fast approaching 5000 test runs at an average of almost 50, and is capable of being a rock-solid defensive batter and hitting bowlers to all parts of the ground. De Villiers is the same sort of batsman: aggressive, big-scoring, has a keen eye and will run around the field like a tiger.
Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will look to lead the bowling attack. Steyn’s pace and Morkel’s height will create headaches for the Australian batsman, especially on the bouncy WACA wicket. Steyn seems to have an almost uncanny ability to swing the ball both ways, even when it has become worn after 50 or 60 overs. Morkel doesn’t have the pace but his tall and lanky frame more than makes up for bowling speed.
If JP Duminy and Vernon Philander join the squad, the South Africans are looking at a combination that will give Australia a real shake up.
Sri Lanka: Beaten only at the last hurdle in the recent ICC World Twenty20, the Sri Lankans possess a team filled with talent, as well as up and comers. The batting stocks are big: Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tilakaratne Dilshan, just to name a few. Vice-captain and all-rounder Angelo Mathews showed excellent poise at the Twenty20 World Cup, and is also a very handy batter and bowler.
The likes of Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka’s high rated spinners, would be well suited to the likes of Sydney and Adelaide. However, with the 2011-2012 summer somewhat lacking in its spin at these venues, Sri Lanka will also need to rely on a pace attack that will lead by the wild-haired Lasith Malinga and possibly Nuwan Kulasekara. Going by the form in the Twenty20 tournament, the spinners and Mathews would have a much better time of it in Australia, though Malinga’s round-arm action could be very tricky to handle at the Gabba and WACA.
Australia: The Aussies have started to find some real consistency in their line-up during the past 12 months, but still have a tendency to crumble in the middle order. Opener Shane Watson has some stellar form in the last 24 months, with injuries having taken much less of a toll on his body. David Warner has established himself as a competent batsman but needs to work on balancing his natural aggression with timed stroke play.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are nearing the end of their careers, but in no way will be impeded by age in this series. Hussey has been in form over the past 12 months, with a beautiful 2011-2012 summer, while Ponting has been playing in the Sheffield Shield for Tasmania, scoring 85 in his opening innings. Captain Michael Clarke will once again be looking to lead Australia on a strong test series after a strong win against India in 2011-2012.
The three big players will be the bowlers: James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Stars. Both Starc and Cummins had fantastic World Twenty20 tournaments, able to threaten batsmen with some beautiful swing bowling. Pattinson has regained form in the Sheffield Shield and would be looking to retain the same form from last summer before injury cruelled the rest of his season.
Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade has ousted Brad Haddin in the test arena, and has proved he isn’t a one-time fluke, having a highly established record with the Victorian Bushrangers.
Australia face some tough opposition this summer, but have every chance to be very competitive and put on an entertaining and sizzling summer series.
Prediction: AUS 2-1 RSA AUS 1-1 SRI
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